The ability to travel presents the ability to free one’s mind, body and soul from their familiar environment, to escape to a new territory that may encourage growth through new challenges and new experiences, unique cultures and people. The opportunity to witness others in their familiar environments as well, gives us a sense of the world, the will to acknowledge others as different and concurrently, similar.
In college, many students grasp the opportunity to travel by studying abroad. For me, the perfect opportunity to travel presented itself when my eldest cousin, Heather, and her husband, Greg, chose to celebrate their marriage of one year with a ceremony held near Greg’s hometown; Wicklow County, Ireland by the beautiful landmark, The Meeting of the Waters. It is here that the Avoca River is formed by the meetings of the Avonbeg and Avonmore Rivers, signifying the meeting of two hearts and marriage, and two families in bond. The summer preceding my sophomore year, we traveled to Ireland in a grandiose group because my extended family is just that; large. Studying abroad had been of utmost interest to me, but realizing that the financial burden would be demanding I had been hesitant. Although I had envisioned the perfect getaway as me traveling alone; in the sense that I would be familiar with no one before I left, allowing me to obtain the full abroad experience complete with starting from scratch and making new friends, I loved my boisterous and extravagant family. A week-long trip to Ireland rather than a semester- long adventure would just have to do.
The ceremony was beautiful on a day when the sun shined brilliantly, contrary to Ireland’s everyday fashion (rain, rain and more rain.) Its brilliant rays reflected off the admirable greenery and off the waters that met the two rivers, resonating with the feelings of my family and friends that day. We were happy to be together, celebrating someone we loved, enjoying this unique opportunity. That night we stayed in a nearby Bed & Breakfast known as The Robin’s Nest, and continued to honor the love of the young couple through dance, feast, laughter, and of course, drink. The quaint yet quirky shelter was attached to a pub, making it a choice destination for celebrating. A novelty native to Ireland we discovered to be our favorite treat along our travels was the Fat Frog, a delicious blend of Lemon Ice, Blueberry and Orange. It was there our first night that we had our first taste. Seeing my family in rare utter bliss, singing and dancing with all of their might, was a memory I’ll never forget.
After the ceremony, we walked the angelic scenery of Wicklow, acknowledging the blessing Mother Nature had bestowed upon us with green hills that seemed to stretch for miles. The time was peaceful, especially after the night we had beforehand. The day transcended into the next and we left the celebrations of love behind to continue our travels through Ireland. Our next stop was none other than Dublin. We stayed in the hotel owned by U2, The Clarence, and enjoyed our night of luxury. Throughout our travels in Dublin we ate at diverse restaurants, met the locals at authentic pubs, and shopped when possible. One of the highlights of our time spent in Dublin was our trip to The Guinness Factory. A massive Irish family taking a trip to Ireland would not complete their vacation without a trip to ‘The Factory.’ Although I couldn’t finish my free pint of Guinness at the end of the tour, I felt truly in touch with my Irish roots that day.
One of our most humorous adventures in Dublin occurred when about 10 of my family members and I decided to create our own “Pub Crawl.” Realistically, it only lastly roughly 5 stops and it was mid-afternoon, but the day-drinking characters we met, the card games with strangers we played, and the ruckus we stirred will remain with me for a lifetime.
Our last leg of the trip took us to County Clare, Ireland and the majestic Bunratty Castle. It’s located within the Bunratty Village, and it means bottom of the ‘Ratty River. The feel of the village, the history of the dwelling, and my imagination reflecting an image of myself as part of the early 19th century brought feelings of pride, witnessing my heritage in true form. Our last evening, we stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Shannon Town, located within County Clare, owned by a wonderful woman who showered us with hospitality. It was then that we met the last people we expected to also staying nearby; a family not only from the United States but from Boston, Massachusetts, only an hour from our home town of Worcester, MA! The family was equal to us in many ways; smaller in numbers but just as big in humor, love and adventurous- spirit. We enjoyed a fabulous meal together, and played cards into the wee hours of our last night in Ireland. The trip had come to an end but had exceeded everything I had expected.
The experience I had that week was irreplaceable. The amount of laughter, warmth, joy, culture, and memories I gained are immeasurable to this day. Although I still believe it will be important for me to tackle a trip to a faraway land on my own, to realize my own strengths and really get to know myself, I know now how important it too is to experience such an amazing trip with people you love. Not only that, but on our last night, we unexpectedly met an unfamiliar family and made friends, exactly what I had wanted from a trip abroad. My trip to Ireland would not have been the same without everyone who was there with me, an event of a lifetime.
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